Seniors in Westchester, Fairfield and Nassau Counties are beginning to see the impact of the partial government shutdown that is now the longest in the nation’s history. 800,000 federal workers are not receiving a paycheck and some services for seniors have been stopped or delayed. The shutdown is considered partial because it affects only federal agencies that haven't yet had their funding approved by Congress - the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of the Interior, and the Department of Transportation.
WHAT SERVICES FOR SENIORS ARE NOT AFFECTED?
Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are “mandatory spending” programs and the government is committed to their funding despite the shutdown. However, any new applicants for these programs may experience a longer than usual wait time for paperwork because of the reduced workforce. You'll still get your Social Security benefits and be able to depend on Medicare to cover the medical bills. However, if you seek verification of your benefits, want your earnings record updated or corrected, or need to replace your Medicare card, you will have to wait until after the shutdown.
WHAT SERVICES WILL BE AFFECTED?
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program SNAP, formerly called food stamps, provides financial help to those in low-income households, including nearly five million people age 60 and older. Seniors who rely on SNAP benefits will be able to obtain them through February. However, if the shutdown continues past February, there is only limited funding to maintain them without new appropriations. Other nutrition programs including the USDA-administered Commodity Supplemental Nutrition Program, which provides nutritious foods to low-income older adults, are not receiving funding during the federal funding lapse. Most states have indicated that they can continue services into February. It is unclear what may happen after that point.
WHAT SERVICES ARE SHUT DOWN?
The shutdown has the biggest impact on seniors in the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) which helps more than 900,000 seniors with affordable housing by funding programs for rent assistance, home ownership, and assistive services for seniors and the disabled. Due to lack of funding, HUD is unable to renew rental assistance contracts that expired in December and January. If the government shutdown continues into February and March, the number of senior residents experiencing hardship due to a lack of rental assistance will increase.
According to The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, also administered through HUD, provides supplemental support for senior services, including home-delivered meals, in some states. CDBG projects and grants will not be federally funded during the shutdown, and states will have to either bridge funding or cut services.
Other federal programs administered by affected agencies that may have implications for older adults include consumer protection programs within the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, elder justice programs under the Department of Justice, and transportation services funded through the Department of Transportation. No specific service reductions have been announced for any of these programs, but that may change should the government remain partially closed into March.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging recommends that seniors, including those in Westchester, Fairfield, and Nassau Counties, reach out to federal lawmakers to help them understand how this partial shutdown affects all their constituents including seniors - both those who are directly affected by furlough and those who are impacted by loss of funding to programs that assist them.
Members of Congress are requesting stories about how the shutdown is affecting people. If you are hearing stories from older adults and caregivers who are suffering as a result of this five-week lapse in federal funding, reach out to inform your Representatives and Senators (U.S. Capitol Switchboard: 202.224.3121; email: https://www.house.gov/representatives and www.senate.gov).
In Fairfield County
Call the Southwestern Connecticut Agency on Aging (SWCAA) if you have any questions about financial assistance programs or other senior assistance programs, call (800) 994-9422. www.swcaa.org
According to Marie Allen, Executive Director of SWCAA,“We are comforted to see that the partial government shutdown is not affecting seniors’ social security income or their medicare and medicaid benefits. We will continue to keep a close eye on the developments and notify the community as needed.”
You can also contact Feeding Westchester, a non-profit food bank Coallition of 300 partners across Westchester County who are "...encouraging federal employees, federal contractors, and other Westchester County residents affected by the ongoing partial government shutdown to seek free food assistance..."
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